Noilly Prattle: The Temple that was thrown up to its cliffside location

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Temple that was thrown up to its cliffside location

Mount Mitoku area- location of
三徳山三佛寺 Mitokusan Sanbutsuji 
     After leaving 燕趙園 [Enchoen], the Chinese Garden, it was only a short drive into the mountains to the 三徳山三佛寺 [Mitokusan Sanbutsuji] temple and its famous (in Japan anyway) cliffside temple called, interestingly enough, 投入堂 [Nageiredo]. The Japanese language seems to be able to compress complex concepts into a few concise syllables. Na-ge-i-re-do, for example consists of five syllables for what I have to explain in English means: The Temple that was created below and thrown up to its cliffside location—19 syllables, count 'em. Let me bore you with another story. It's called how The Temple (that was created below and thrown up to its cliffside location) came into existence.

The Nageiredo (from the road through my zoom lens)
     Long, long ago in the Nara Period around the 8th Century when Buddhism was being introduced into Japan from China, there was a sort of magician monk who wanted to spread the teachings of Buddha around the country. This magician monk's name was Enno Gyoja. According to legend he threw three lotus petals into the sky intending to build a new temple in each area where they fell back to earth. One of the petals fell onto a cliffside cave on Mount Mitoku 三徳山 in present day Tottori Prefecture. When Enno Gyoja arrived at Mitokusan and saw the almost inaccessible location of the cave and the difficulty involved in building a temple there he decided to build it lower down the mountain slope. Being a magician monk he compressed the completed building into the palm of his hand and boldly threw it up to the cave where, magically, it stuck and has been there ever since. It's called the Nageiredo 投入堂 (I don't have the patience to translate the name again), and is thought to be the oldest surviving wooden structure in Japan.

old and new (junk drinks even here)
weathered gate to the guest house
       Even accessing the main parts of the 三佛寺 [Sanbutsuji] temple can be a bit of a challenge if you are on the shady side of 70 and living with a titanium pin in the hip. The temple seems to have foreseen the needs of mobility-on-steep-slopes challenged people. They graciously provided walking sticks fashioned from local tree limbs at the base of the first set of steps, one of which I grabbed to begin the climb. The temple is an old weatherbeaten affair where moss covered stone sculptures abound. One set of steps shows evidence of centuries of wear and tear. There is an interesting set of Buddhist style prayer beads in front of the gate to a wayfarers' guest house. Usually these beads are fingered much like a rosary while muttering prayers. This set, however, is huge and hung from a pulley that you pull slowly while the wooden beads drop down with a sharp click that can be mesmerizing if you do it long enough. I guess they are designed to put one in a meditative trance. 

prayer beads for giants
Statue of Zao Gongen, a mountain deity,
that used to be in the Nageiredo
(now in a museum at the temple)

staircase well worn by time and countless feet
sun filtered through cedar trees
produces cathedral-like effect

(in my imagination at least)

weather worn and moss covered sculptures of I have no idea what
the Nageiredo and the view for those
able to see it (not my photos) 
little green haired boy
     The Nageiredo, as I mentioned in the previous post, is notoriously difficult to climb up to and is, consequently used for training monks and challenging intrepid climbers. To this day experts can't deduce how the building was actually built in such a difficult location. Although the climber is rewarded with a breathtaking view and photo op, thanks to me bum leg I had to forego, although sorely tempted, the agony and the ecstasy.

if you look real close you will see the Nageiredo in a notch in the foliage in one of the sun's rays;
the little sparkles all over the photo are a swarm of lady bugs (many of which landed on our clothes)

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